My good, great, friend Jonathan Alforte, received the honor of being our batch Valedictorian. This is a great moment for our barkada, because both the batch Valedictorian and Salutatorian come from our group. It’s such a blessing to be friends which such deserving people.
I found out the morning of the graduation practice (two days before graduation day) that Jonathan was the batch Valedictorian. I was overwhelmed with emotions because I knew Jonathan deserved it. He gave his very best to everything he did, and being a 100% scholar of the university, he is the epitome of hope among the less privileged youth. Oh, and I forgot to mention, he was #1 (or #2?) in the entrance examinations in our year of entry (2005).
We are so proud of you, Jonathan. And I am truly blessed and honored to be your friend, and to have been part of the creation of the very well-received speech you delivered. I am sorry for being so hard on you when we were still constructing the speech, but I love how we can always separate our professional and personal lives. We seemed to have perfected that. I know you said that you shared that standing ovation with me and Henry, but, I will constantly remind you: Henry and I may have helped in writing the words, but you, you put the heart, the soul, the emotion into the speech, and ultimately it was built on an idea that you stood firmly beside. And that is what people loved most about it. Congratulations Jonathan.
And now, the much talked about Valedictory Address.
Bridging the Gap
by Jonathan Ray Alforte
UA&P 15th Graduation Rites, PICC Plenary Hall
June 5, 2010
To Dr. Jaime Laya, our guest speaker, Dr. Placido Mapa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the UA&P Foundation Incorporated, Dr. Josemaria Mariano, UA&P President, the UA&P administration, faculty, and staff, respected guests, beloved parents, fellow graduates, Jejemons and Jejebusters, NBA enthusiasts and Lakers Haters, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon!
Ika-dalawampu’t siyam ng Mayo ng taong dalawang libo’t lima nang pinagpasyahan kong tanggapin ang iskolarsyip na ipinagkaloob ng pamantasang ito. Matagal naming pinag-isipan ng aking pamilya ang mga bagay-bagay, marami kasi ang kailangang isaalang-alang. Pero sino ba naman ang makakatanggi sa “You have been granted 100% scholarship with board and lodging, book allowance and monthly stipend”, ani sa sulat na aking natanggap ilang linggo bago ang araw na iyun.
Dala-dala ang aking maleta, sumakay ako ng bus, kasama ang aking ama, na puno ng pag-asa at pag-aalinglangan. Pansamantala kong nilisan ang aking pamilya at ang lugar na aking kinalakihan na tanging lakas ng loob at kagustuhang magtagumpay ang dalang puhunan.
Hindi ako makatulog sa bus nang gabing yun. Ang dami kasing tanong na naglalaro sa aking isipan, “Paano kung lumampas kami ng istasyon?”, “Ano kaya ang hitsura ng Maynila?”, “Makikita ko kaya si Angel Locsin?”. Hindi rin maipinta ang aking mukha sa halo-halong emosyon. Sabik na Masaya na natatakot na hindi mo maintindihan. Kalaunan, naramdaman ko ang pangangatog ng aking katawan. Hindi ito dulot ng kaba bunga ng pananabik na makarating ng Maynila, kundi dahil nakatutok pala sa akin ang aircon ng bus.
Ngunit aaminin ko, sobra-sobra ang kaba ko no’n, kahalintulad ng kaba ko ngayon sa entabladong ito, habang nagsasalita sa inyong harapan. Ang tanging nakakapag-panatag lang sa akin para ituloy ang biyaheng iyon ay ang pagnanasang matulungan ko ang aking mga magulang, maging magandang halimbawa sa aking mga pinsan at kabarangay, at, kung papalarin, ay makatulong din sa aking mga kapwa bikolano. Batid ko ring ang mga pangarap na iyon ang simula ng maraming pagbabago.
True enough, a lot has indeed changed.
It is undeniable that I have come a very long way. From a small boy with big dreams, to a boy who is still small (sorry, I only grew a few inches, but gained a lot of weight, obviously), whose dreams are little by little becoming a reality. For sure, you still remember the first time you set foot in our school. It was that very same day when I realized that, it’s a different world out here. I immediately noticed the big difference between the life that I had lived back in Bicol and that in Ortigas. Of course, how could I have not noticed that…I am in a different place now – 8 hours away from Bicol by land. One of the obvious differences was how the people talked. From “Kumusta ka na? Ano na ang ginigibo mo?” to “Hi, how are you? What are you doing?”, from “tsong, madya kakan kita ning goto sa karinderya” to “Let’s make kain na sa Caf”, and “like, parang, uhm, you know”…anyway.
The difference was very apparent. Coming from the Bicol region, which is one of the poorest regions in the Philippines, and coming here to Manila, which has the highest regional income per capita in the country, I noticed that big gap between the less privileged and the privileged ones. That gap, I felt was rooted on the choices and opportunities available for the fortunate people, which the less privileged are deprived of.
News tells us that there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor: the rich becoming richer, and the poor becoming poorer. In the little world of economics, we have what we call the Gini Coefficient which measures the income inequality of a country. A value of 0 indicates perfect equality which means that all wealth is divided equally among everyone. On the other hand, a value of 1 indicates that only one person has all the wealth and everyone else has nothing. The lower the value of it, the better.
According to the United Nations data, the Gini Coefficient of our country in 2009 was 0.44. This is already high compared to the Gini coefficient of our neighboring countries: Cambodia-0.407, Malaysia-0.378, Indonesia-0.394, and Vietnam-0.378. This income inequality, which manifests the gap between the fortunate and the less fortunate, is rooted on the disparity in the choices and opportunities that can be received between the rich and the poor.
For example, education is not a birthright. It is not a privilege for the privileged. But given the gap, this tends to happen. The less fortunate are deprived of going to a good school since they cannot afford it, while the privileged are enjoying their stay in prestigious universities and colleges.
I’m not from a very well off family. And if things went differently, I would not even have dreamt of the chance to be able to study in a high profile university here to Manila. But UA&P gave me that chance. That chance to improve my language proficiency and my love for the arts. That chance to learn the most basic, yet the most important lesson one should learn: the essence of a man, his being, his right to live a dignified life, and his capability to give himself to others. These are the lessons that we have learned during our stay in the university. These are the lessons that we may carry with us when we step out of the gates of the campus.
As graduates of the university, we are now equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to help give that same chance to other people. Now more than ever, we are in the position to offer more help, our talents, and skills, to uplift the lives of others.
In UA&P, we already did that when we braved the rainy nights of Ondoy and gave that chance for others to survive. We already did it when we joined the BIGGKAS outreach program and provided to the San Joaquin Elementary School students that chance to learn math, science, religion, and sports. We already did it when we followed the simple rule in the cafeteria, when we wore our I.D. and followed the dress code which paved the way for more opportunities to further cultivate the corporate culture of the university.
And I challenge you my dear batchmates to embody that same attitude outside our school, that is, in our workplace, to be instruments of opening up opportunities and chances to others. Sure you can organize an outreach, donate a million pesos cash, be a politician, or even visit the depths of South Africa to show that you are contributing to the provision of chances and opportunities, of closing the gap…..But you don’t necessarily have to go to that extent. It can be as simple as doing your work well in the office. By doing this, you are giving justice to those individuals who are deprived of the chance to study and earn a well-paying job. That is the least that we can do for them. As Ivy Baker Priest puts it, “Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones come daily.” Let us grab those small opportunities everyday to help others, which will eventually bridge the gap between the less privileged and the privileged.
Delivering my speech during the UA&P 15th Graduation Rites, June 5, 2010, PICC Plenary Hall.
As we march later to get our diplomas, remember all the challenges that we have traversed just to earn that piece of document. Remember the sleepless nights that we have spent just to finish our APS or PRS papers. Remember the group study sessions that we have conducted just to review for our Math exams. Remember the tons and tons of reading materials that we have to photocopy; the numerous highlighters that we have consumed; the number of coffee or extra joss that we drunk just to stay awake; and the endless trials of OLS models.
But most importantly, remember those people behind all of these because they are the ones who provided us with the opportunities to improve ourselves, to be better individuals, and the chance to be man for others….And may we be like them for others just as how they did to us, starting from enhancing the lives of those people around us, one person at a time,…one community at a time.
To the UA&P community, Amber Study Center, Tambuli Residence Hall, School of Economics, IEP friends, and Dormers, thank you for giving me the opportunity to have a shot at pursuing my dreams. To my Family, thank you for giving me the opportunity to love and be loved. And to our Lord Almighty, thank you for giving me the chance to begin and begin again everytime I fall.
Marhay na aldaw po asin Dios mabalos saindo gabos!
(Me with the Valedictorian, in early 2006. One of our first pictures together. Twas the start of an awesome, crazy friendship. You rock, Jonathan.)